New Legislation: Football Practice Regulations

New Legislation: Football Practice Regulations

At the 2018 NAIA National Convention our membership voted on new legislation. Legislative Services is going to break down some of the more substantial changes in our legislative briefs over the next few months. The first brief in this line is all about Article I, Section F, Item 6. The entire language of the bylaw with the changes is below, and the underlined portion indicates the recent addition. The intent behind this legislation was to help protect our football student-athletes health and wellness by requiring an acclimatization period and limiting practice duration. 


Article I, Section F, Item 6:

Practice will be defined as follows: An activity organized and/or directed by an identified member of the coaching staff of that sport in which appropriate equipment is used or instruction and/or evaluation of the athlete takes place.


In the sport of football, the following regulations apply:

  1. Beginning on the first day of practice for each student, a five-day acclimatization period is required for all student-athletes, and should be conducted as follows:

1) Days 1-2: Helmets are the only piece of protective equipment student-athletes may wear.

2) Days 3-4: Helmets and shoulder pads are the only pieces of protective equipment student-athletes may wear.

3) Day 5 and thereafter: student-athletes may practice in full pads and utilize any protective equipment.

  1. Prior to a team’s first competition, each student is limited to a maximum of four total hours per day of on-field and/or physical activity, which includes all on-field practice, skills work, conditioning, and walkthrough sessions that are organized or directed by an identified member of the coaching staff. Within those four total hours, the following restrictions apply:

1) A student is limited to a maximum of three total hours per day of physical activities, including skills work, on-field practice, and conditioning sessions.

2) Following each physical activity, a three-hour recovery period must be provided, during which students may not engage in on-field or physical activity, or weight training. However, when a physical activity is interrupted due to unforeseen catastrophes or weather conditions, the three-hour recovery period is not required.

3) On-field walkthrough sessions are permitted provided no protective equipment or football implements are used, and no conditioning takes place.


Key points of this legislation:

  • Effective August 1, 2018.
  • The acclimatization schedule is student-specific, meaning, the entire team does not need to be on the same five day acclimation period if a student joins the team at a later point. All football student-athletes are required to go through an acclimatization period regardless of when they join the team. 
  • There are three different time periods included in this bylaw amendment:
    • Four total hours per day of on-field and/or physical activity.
    • Of the four hours of on-field and/or physical activity, only three hours may be actual physical activity (as defined in the bylaw). The fourth hour can be on-field but cannot be physical, e.g. an on-field walkthrough would be allowed during the fourth hour. 
    • Three hours must be utilized as a mandatory recovery period before any other physical activity can occur.
  • Conditioning is included in the three-hour maximum of on-field and/or physical activity but weight training is not. However, weight training cannot be conducted during the mandatory recovery period. 
  • A “walkthrough” is considered an on-field activity but not a physical activity. Thus it would not be subject to the three-hour limit for physical activity but would be subject to the four-hour maximum time for on-field activities.
  • “On-field” is limited to the football field or practice field but “physical activities” is not geographically specific. For example a conditioning session at a local pool would not be considered on-field but would be considered physical. This type of conditioning would count towards your three-hour maximum for physical activity and would require the mandatory three hour recovery period afterwards. 
  • “Football implement” is any gear, equipment, or tool specifically associated with the sport of football.
  • Medical treatment and physical therapy would not be considered physical or on-field activities.
  • Currently this bylaw only covers football.
  • As with all bylaw requirements, this new amendment will be up to each athletics department to enforce and track. 


Case Studies

*Assume all schools are NAIA institutions unless otherwise noted.

Scenario 1:

Festus University’s football team begins practice on August 1, 2018, and all players go through the proper acclimatization period. David joins the football team on August 15, 2018, would the entire team have to start the acclimatization period over?

Answer 1:

No, this bylaw is specific to the student and not to the team as a whole. So in this scenario, David would need to go through the proper five-day period on his own before he could join the team in a full capacity.

Scenario 2:

Once David goes through the acclimatization period the coach lists him as a tight end and a linebacker. David goes to the offense specific practice at 8:00 a.m. and practices in full pads for one hour. David does not participate in any physical activities until the scheduled practice for defense at 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon of the same day. Can David participate in the defense practice at 2:00?

Answer 2:

Yes, David has completed the mandatory three-hour recovery period and would be cleared to participate in the afternoon practice. 

Scenario 3:

David goes to conditioning at 10:00 a.m. which ends at 11:00 a.m. and then heads straight to physical therapy for an injury. Is this permissible?

Answer 3:

Yes, even though conditioning is a physical activity requiring the mandatory three hour recovery period, medical treatment is exempt from this period. The athletic trainers and doctors should still use their best judgment if the physical therapy would put the student at risk.

Scenario 4:

Festus lifts weights as a team from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., has a full team practice on the football field using football implements from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., and then has another full practice from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Would this be permissible?

Answer 4:

Yes! The weight training session in the morning is not considered a physical activity for the purposes of this bylaw. The two full practices would be considered physical and on-field activities thus they would require the three hour recovery period which Festus provided. Also the two practices did not exceed the three-hour physical activity limit, so this would be permissible.

Scenario 5:

The Festus coach was not happy with the team’s preparation after the evening practice and ordered the students back at 11:00 p.m. on the same day for a one-hour walkthrough. Would this be okay?

Answer 5:

This would be allowed! Remember a walkthrough is considered an on-field activity but not a physical activity thus Festus would not have exceeded their three hour physical activity limit. They have reached their four-hour limit though for on-field activities.


Please tune in at noon central time on Tuesday, as Lendsey Thomson and Jared Shafer will dive into these scenarios even further.